Would Tennessee football be better off with divisions or pods in 16-team SEC? – Knoxville News Sentinel

We don’t know what the SEC alignment will look like beginning with the 2025 season. We just know change is coming once Oklahoma and Texas join the conference.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said earlier this year that debate is ongoing about how the conference will be aligned after those two schools join from the Big 12.
Likely, the SEC will shift from an eight-game conference schedule to a nine-game league slate.
One option would be to align in two eight-team divisions and play seven division games, plus two interdivision opponents that would rotate each season.
Another format that was the subject of public debate last summer was the possibility of four scheduling pods with four teams apiece. Teams would play the other three teams from their pod annually, along with two opponents apiece from each of the other pods.
On this edition of “The Volunteer State,Blake Toppmeyer of the USA TODAY Network and the News Sentinel’s Adam Sparks and John Adams debate whether a division alignment or a four-team pod structure would work better for the Vols.
If the SEC aligned in divisions that adhered to historical rivalries and geography, the Vols could be in an East Division that would include Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
That would position Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M in the West.
The pod most commonly discussed for Tennessee would feature the Vols with Alabama, Auburn and Vanderbilt.
Sparks says media members would be fascinated with a pod alignment and fans might enjoy it for the increased variety it would give to scheduling. But he thinks the divisional alignment would work better for Tennessee. Divisions would provide more schedule predictability and less variance in strength of schedule from year to year.
Toppmeyer disagrees. He thinks the pod alignment would work better for Tennessee, as long as Tennessee is not in a pod with Alabama and Georgia. Being in a pod with just one of those teams means the Vols wouldn’t have to play each of the SEC’s two powers on an annual basis. Currently, Tennessee must play Alabama and Georgia every season, and that would remain the case in a division structure within a 16-team league, assuming Alabama is placed in the East.
Adams says Tennessee should advocate to be placed in a pod he dubs the “Great North.” In Adams’ suggestion, the Vols would be in a pod with Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
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Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is a senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Adam Sparks is the Tennessee football beat writer for the News Sentinel. If you enjoy their coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Also, you can subscribe to The Volunteer State podcast for free so you won’t miss an episode, or check out SEC Football Unfiltered, another podcast from Toppmeyer and Adams.

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